The Grange Hall

Mom called me to come back into the house, reminding me about the early dinner at the Grange Hall. I asked my Mom again what she thought about what happened with Mike today. She said that she didn’t know what to think and that it was really odd. It was almost like he was sad.

“I’ll tell you what, Mathew, I’m going to check around to see if I can find out something more about Mike. I will be getting involved at the Grange. They have a meeting there tonight after dinner. Maybe I can ask some of the people in the community if they know much about Mike.”

I thought Mom had a great idea and then I said, “Maybe there will be some young ladies down there I can meet. What do you think?”

Chuckling, Mom responded, “You’re growing up too fast. The dinner and meeting start at seven.”

It was dark over at Mike’s house as we drove out of the driveway. It looked like he had retired early. Five miles down the road was a large building that served as the Grange Hall. This area was settled eighty years ago. At that time there was a rather large lake close by. It was rather shallow, fed by the snow of the surrounding mountains. The climate was much wetter then. Looking in the distance, you can see a vast dry lakebed that replaced the big lake. Now it was a fertile place to raise many different hay crops because of the volcanic soils. The canal system for irrigation put in place about sixty years ago, in the Deschutes River Valley of Central Oregon, along with fertilization, made the desert bloom. The elevation of 3,500 feet was a perfect climate, free from the Pacific storms that thrashed the Willamette Valley across the Cascade Range to the west. The high desert of Central Oregon was the perfect climate for hay production.

The parking lot was full. People had their potluck dinners in their arms as they made their way into the hall. We were met at the door by a nice gentleman. He was the pastor of the little assembly that met at the Grange Hall every Sunday. He introduced himself to us and others as they came in.

Poking me, Mom said, “Come on in Mathew. Let’s sit.”

I was a little distracted. There were a couple young ladies that drew my attention. Mom and I grabbed a seat on the benches where the picnic tables were all set up inside. There were paper plates with a nice setting in front of us of salads and potatoes. Off to the side, people were lining up to get the main course of hamburgers and hotdogs. For the specialty, there was rib eye steak cooked outside. The aroma was wonderful. From time to time my attention was seriously distracted. Right in front of me was a girl that caught my attention. Her name was Shirley. She had on cowboy boots. I asked her if I could sit next to her. Congenially, she agreed. As I slid closer to her, she looked at her girlfriend and giggled. In our conversation, about horses, her interest piqued, then she told me about the 4-H club that she was involved in and invited me to join.

Mom was busy making acquaintances. She was very amazed at how friendly everybody was compared to how things were in the big city. Soon the conversation turned to her question about our neighbor, Mike. Mr. Jeffers said that he knew Mike was a good trucker. He had been driving for about three years now. Bob Jeffers was overheard by an older gentleman, Tom Hoffman, who excused himself and said that he was quite sure that Mike used to live over in the valley. He mentioned that Mike’s last name was Chapman. He said that he had been over in Alfalfa for a short time, but he lived in the valley for about twenty years in Portland. I heard that he was involved with horses, in fact, heavily involved with horses.

“Now wait a minute,” my Mom said. “Are you sure that’s the Mike Chapman who lives down there off Walker Road?”

“Yes, I’m quite sure about it,” answered Mr. Hoffman. “He’s the truck driver, right?”

“Yes, drives a big red Freightliner.”

“Yes, that’s right, that’s who I’m talking about,” Mom exclaimed. “Well, if he was involved in horses a lot, what’s he doing over here?” she asked. “We don’t see any evidence of life over there. No horses, no dogs. He’s just in his truck all the time.” Mom wondered.

As Mom questioned a few more members of the Grange the common answer seemed to be, “I don’t know the whole story.” It was very difficult for her to get any more information about Mike. That really sparked her interest. Now she was very curious. Mom thanked Tom. After a delicious meal with many new friends and a wonderful conversation, I was busily talking horses with Shirley. I told Mom that I was excited because Shirley told me about a 4-H club that I could join, all about horses.

“That’s great,” Mom said, “You have a lot to look forward to with new friends here.” Satisfied with our introduction to the community, we headed home.

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